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O'Neill sets Downing Cup goal challenge

Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing has been challenged by manager Martin O'Neill to stay on the goal trail in tonight's FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace. England international Downing was on target twice in Villa's 5-2 romp against Burnley at Villa Park on Sunday.

He had only scored once in his previous 19 games before that brace and had gone 16 matches without a goal.

Now he has ended that drought, O'Neill hopes he can finish the season with a flourish -- starting against Palace.

O'Neill said: "His confidence has been boosted with his two goals against Burnley. I think he has been doing very well for us without getting the occasional goal.

"That is the part of his game which he feels he can improve upon as he has a really good shot and I think his two goals against Burnley will have lifted him enormously.

"He is a confidence player and you can see the ability he has.

"I think he is able to contribute more in future in the way of goals after scoring against Burnley. He has a strong shot and we often see it in training.

"Overall I am very pleased for him because I think some of his performances over the last couple of months have merited bigger notices than he was getting.

"His goalscoring form has come at a good time and I know the England manager has certainly said in the past how much he thinks of Downing. That will be very positive for him."

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace, Setanta Sports 1 (KO 8.0)



City on the up insists Mancini

Roberto Mancini believes things are still looking up for Manchester City despite the boos that have greeted their recent performances. City have been jeered by their own fans at their last two home matches and go into tomorrow's FA Cup fifth-round replay at Stoke with only two wins from their last seven fixtures in all competitions.

Mancini's side are currently fifth in the Premier League but Sunday's goalless draw at Eastlands with fellow Champions League contenders Liverpool gave little indication that they are ready to seize the top-four place they so covet.

City fans made their feelings known at the final whistle as they had done the previous weekend in the original tie against Stoke, but Mancini -- who has been without his top-scorer Carlos Tevez for two weeks -- insists he is not worried by their reaction.

"I don't think that the City supporters are frustrated," Mancini said.

"We have a good position, we must play 12 more (league) games and we have one game in hand. It is normal (to boo)."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis has promised his players "a well-earned rest" once they have put their bodies on the line twice more this month.

A daunting February that will have seen Stoke play eight matches in 27 days concludes with an FA Cup fifth-round replay with Manchester City tonight and Premier League clash against Arsenal on Saturday, both at the Britannia Stadium. It has been a punishing schedule and Pulis knows his players are tired, but is demanding two more big performances over the next four days.



Harry spurred on two fronts

Harry Redknapp admits it would be a bigger achievement for Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League than winning the FA Cup -- but intends to give it his best shot to do both.

Spurs host Bolton in tomorrow night's FA Cup fifth-round replay after moving into fourth place in the Premier League following a 3-0 win at Wigan. It has been a remarkable turnaround since Redknapp's appointment 16 months ago when they were bottom of the table.

However, the former Pompey boss maintains it is all about relative progress. Redknapp said: "I would love to do them both but it would be nice to get in the top four. I want to win tomorrow and I want to get to Wembley in the cup final but, certainly, finishing in the top four would be a terrific achievement from where we have come from."

Tottenham v Bolton , Setanta Ireland (KO 8.0)



Carson eyes Villa showdown

West Brom goalkeeper Scott Carson has targeted a win over Reading tonight to set up a possible FA Cup quarter-final clash with former club and local rivals Aston Villa.

Roberto Di Matteo's side rescued a 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium 10 days ago thanks to Joe Mattock's late equaliser, while Martin O'Neill's Villa also needed a late goal to earn a draw at Palace.

Carson said: "We want to get through and, who knows, maybe we will get Villa in the next round. Obviously a lot of football has to be played but we know that we could have a big local derby if we get past Reading and Villa beat Palace."


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